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Digg continues to battle phony stories

Company revokes, then reinstates user who admitted making mistake when agreeing to post promotional story at marketer's request.

Digg continues to crack down on users who plant phony stories on behalf of marketers, recently deleting a user who posted a story about a company that offered to compensate him.

The news aggregate site, which allows users to play editor and decide the value of a news story, deleted the user account belonging to Karim Yergaliyev, one of Digg's top-rated users. Digg spokesman David Fonkalsrud, who confirmed that Yergaliyev was booted from the site for violating the company's terms of service, said Yergaliyev was reinstated days after he acknowledged the infraction, apologized and promised never to do it again.

"I receive two or three offers (from marketers) a week to promote some product or service," Yergaliyev, 19, said in an interview with CNET "I never do it, but the week JetNumbers asked me I met this girl and I was really happy with life. I wanted to help anybody."

JetNumbers provides virtual local phone numbers in more than 30 countries. Nathan Schorr, JetNumbers' business development manager, said that when he first approached Yergaliyev, who is known at Digg as "Supernova17," he mentioned that his company was willing to compensate the teen financially and give him free phone minutes using JetNumbers' system. Schorr said Yergaliyev turned down the cash.

Marketers are attempting to "artificially" boost the profile of their companies at the expense of Digg, Jay Adelson, the company's CEO, said in an interview earlier this month.

At Digg, , readers vote on a story's worth. Those who like a story hit a "digg" button and those who like it less hit "bury it." The most popular stories appear on the front page. Phony stories, worries the company, could conceivably erode Digg's credibility.

The company has employed a list of tactics to combat the planting of paid-for stories, such as removing accounts.

Schorr maintains that he inadvertently broke Digg's rules. He had heard little about the company prior to sending the e-mail offer to Yergaliyev. He did have enough knowledge to seek out the top 30 or so Digg users and pitch them the same offer he extended to Yergaliyev. Yergaliyev said he was the only one who responded. "I guess I was the only one to fall into the trap," he said.

Schorr, for his part, said he "never meant to bribe anybody. We don't have a lot of money as a company. We thought the best and cheapest way to promote our company was word of mouth. We contacted other blogs to see if they wanted to try our product and if they liked the product we thought they could write about it."